Empire of Time - Episode 2
Good morning, we are looking at the Empire of Time series. Matteo Ricci was the first European allowed to be in the Forbidden City. He was going to convert the Chinese through science and mathematics to Christianity. After his death, a second Jesuit priest, Schall von Bell continued his work. He began drafting a new calendar. Who would claim the mandate of heaven and rule the empire? The run time for episode two is 49:09.
The episode opens with the writings of Schall von Bell. He is writing about his time in China and the Emperor. In 1644, the Ming Emperor died and Schall von Bell lost everything. The only thing he had left was his calendar. His house was surrounded by men, what these men wanted from him he did not know. He would defend his house and his life. The rebellion was finally crushed so Schall von Bell could live in peace, at least for the time being.
A new group was on the scene and they were looking to seize power. This group expelled many residents from their homes. However, Schall von Bell was looking to get an introduction to the new court by providing the new leaders with a book on Astronomy. The residents would still have to vacate their homes to house soldiers. In his petition, he told the new rulers that he was an astronomer and that if he was expelled from his home, all his work would be lost. His work could be of use to the new dynasty.
Bell’s petition was heard, and he found an ally in the Grand Secretary to the new emperor. He was allowed to keep his house and he would use the opportunity to revive the Jesuit’s fortunes in China. A solar eclipse would be his way back into the Imperial Court. The Emperor eventually gave him permission to participate in the Astronomy Bureau’s work. Bell’s prediction for the eclipse was put into competition with the other Imperial Astrologists. An army official was allowed to supervise the contest. Bell won the contest and showed that the European model for predicting the stars was more accurate.
He would soon be in charge of creating the calendar. Once the calendar was printed it was sent out to many households in China. Bell was soon in charge of the Astronomer Bureau. It gave Bell direct access to his colleagues and was a position of power. He introduced the western calendar system and worked to improve the civil astronomy system. He oversaw a major transformation of the bureau, expelling many senior officials and giving examinations. A number of new converts became members of the Astronomer Bureau.
The Manchus had conquered the Han Chinese. The Han did not like being conquered. On top of that, a foreigner was in charge of the Astronomy Bureau implementing new ideas. The conflict was going to happen. Bell was clear that his method was right and was keen on implementing the method in the Imperial Court. He was close to the Manchu Emperor Shunzhi.
Eventually, Bell would ask for a replacement sent to China. However, the church was undergoing a change that would challenge the Vatican’s beliefs. What event was taking place during this time? A further challenge during these times was an outbreak of smallpox in the Forbidden City. Would bell get his replacement? Would the Han fight back over the changes Bell was making? Tune into the rest of this episode to find out more.
Wow, the introduction was really disjointed. I was not clear as to what was happening, and if I could not understand what was happening, how could a student? The producers should have made it clear that the Emperor had died and that there was a rebellion before a new emperor rose to take his place. The producers did not make clear who was rebelling and who did the conquering, at least until the middle of the documentary. Just based on the production value of this documentary this would be one documentary I would skip showing the classroom. It was way too choppy, the information was presented out of order, and did not have a good flow to it. Overall, it was a disappointing watch.
Empire of Time - Episode 1
Good morning, we are now going to shift gears and learn about China in the documentary series: Empire of Time. This first episode explores astronomy. The run time is 48:48. I will admit that I am a little bit skeptical about writing a review about this series, but I will give it a shot.
Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit priest who entered China. He was the first European to enter China at the end of the 16th Century. He would look to convert the Emperor and eventually all of China to Catholicism. He was a man who was trained in geometry and algebra. He would use his learning to convert the people. He noted that Astronomy was important to the Chinese. After him, the Jesuits remained in China for three generations looking to convert the Emperor and eventually all of China.
During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor was the center of a vast empire. He was considered the son of heaven and his power was based on how he mastered heaven and time. The story begins with the Emperor celebrating and praying at the temple of heaven. The second scene cuts to a man journeying through China. He is looking at the stars and admiring the night sky. He is a Jesuit priest and is about to enter the Forbidden City.
Time had a deep significance to the Chinese people. They wanted to do things at the right time. They felt that time should go with the flow of nature. To establish his legitimacy to rule, the Emperor adopted the term the Son of Heaven. He was the representative of the people before heaven and vice versa. He was between Heaven and Earth. The Emperor had to convince the people that he had a divine mandate to rule.
The Forbidden City leaned to this air. It was the most important place and like the Polar Star. The Polar Star was known as the “Star of the Emperor.” It was here where time was announced. Eventually, as society developed, there was a need for a more accurate measurement of time. For generations, people tried to calculate time. Eventually, two systems of time developed: one that followed the rotation of the earth and the other that followed the rotation of the atom. Timekeeping was an activity controlled by the state during the Chinese empire. Astronomers were civil servants. They were a major part of the Chinese bureaucracy.
There were three departments in this department of astronomy. One department was in charge of observation. The second department was responsible for establishing the calendar. The last department was to change the water out of the water clock. Time was measured according to the height of the water. Everything had to be carefully measured and controlled, otherwise, it would show that the Emperor had problems ruling his country. Punishments were severe for inaccurate information.
At the same time during this 1601 period, Pope Gregory was working to reform the calendar. This is where the Jesuit Priest Matteo Ricci. He was trained under a famous Jesuit Priest Christopher Clavius. He was the man who settled the debate on when to celebrate Easter. He also institutes mathematics as a separate subject in school. Matteo Ricci would make his way to China, he was going as a Jesuit Missionary. He would have traveled from Lisbon, Portugal, and would travel to India before making his way to Macau, China. He would eventually learn Chinese. He would meet up with a Jesuit Priest, Father Ruggieri and together they would study. The wrote the first Chinese-Portuguese dictionary. He did not go straight to Beijing but would explore the countryside. He would eventually visit an observatory and what he found in this observatory surprised him. What did he find in China? Would he make his way to the Forbidden City? To learn more about what Matteo Ricci did in China, continue to watch this series.
There were places where I found myself drifting, particularly the long (and I mean long) discussion on time. It was really slow-moving and disjointed at times. The recreations were fascinating. I am not impressed so far. I hope that it gets better, but I have my doubts. So far I am leaning that this documentary would not be a good fit for the classroom.
It is the 13th Century and Marco Polo is going to embark on a voyage to China. However, doubts exist that he made it to China. The scale of his adventures defies belief and his account becomes a best seller of the Middle Ages. Is there legitimate proof that Marco Polo was in China? Even on his death bed, he hinted that he had only told half the story. Today, historians are looking at the documents to prove that he was there. Who was the real Marco Polo?
It is 1298, and Genoa and Venice are at war. Marco Polo, a Venetian Merchant is arrested and ends up in a Genoese jail. Here he is imprisoned with an author of chivalric romances. Marco entertains this author with his travel tales. The author is fascinated by the tales and together they put Marco Polo’s tales in a book. What if these tales were hearsay?
One historian doubt that Marco Polo made his way past Constantinople. Here he would have met a variety of merchants who did make their way to China. These merchants would have told Marco their tales. Marco would have passed those tales off as his own. So was Marco Polo a plagiarist? Other historians disagree with that assessment. They go even further and turn to the Chinese sources to match what Marco Polo said. Even back then he was called a braggart as nobody believed him. Even the house where he lived is called “Braggart’s Court.”
One historian turns to the Venetian archives to see what they have to say about Marco Polo. Marco Polo was the most famous merchant in Venice. He was seventeen when he went on his first voyage to eastern Asia. His father and his uncle had traveled these routes before. They had gone to Mongolia and met with Kublai Khan. On one journey, the Kublai Khan had expressed interest in Christianity, so he sent Marco Polo’s father and uncle back to Venice to bring back priests. To ensure that the pair made it back safely with the priests, they were sent with currier tablets. These tablets belonged to Kublai Khan and would have ensured safe passage. These served as ambassadorial passports for the Mongolian Empire. Did these tablets exist? Historians turn to the archives to find out.
The first step of the journey back to Mongolia and the court of Kublai Khan was the Holy Land. Here Marco Polo would meet the newly elected pope. The pope sent along with two monks and a vial containing a couple of drops of oil that belonged to the lamps that burned at the tomb of Christ. One historian pokes holes at Marco Polo’s journey pointing out that there was no pope at the time and the Vatican letters. However, Marco Polo provided the names of the two monks in his story. The two monks fled, fearing for their lives. Marco Polo, his uncle, and his father continued to press on. They traveled over the deserts, on the Silk Road and ran into bandits.
Marco Polo describes the trail he took. One historian points out the gaps in Marco Polo’s record during this journey. He does not mention the Great Wall. It would have been a feature that Marco Polo would have seen. However contemporary sources at the time also fail to mention the wall as well as maps at the time overlook the wall. The first appearance of the wall was on a 16th Century map.
After three years, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle arrived at the court of Kublai Khan. He had just declared himself Emperor of China, unifying China once again under one Emperor once again. It is here, Marco steps back and highlights Kublai Khan. He talks about how Kublai Khan dressed and the clothing customs in the Imperial Court.
This is a German-produced documentary with English narration. This was a fascinating watch and tells an excellent story of Marco Polo. I thoroughly enjoyed the counterpoints to the assertion that Marco Polo did not make his way to China. At times I felt that particular historian was condescending. This would be a documentary to show in a history class and it would be a good documentary to show to an English class on how to debate.
I'm a librarian with an active imagination who likes to create. Genealogist and Researcher.
My Teachers Pay Teachers Store! Worksheets available as a Word Document.
I am also on Lulu! If you're interested in genealogy I have several books available!
HistoryDocTube will not collect any personal information and will not sell any personal information to a third party. We will not request any personal information.
The purpose of this blog is to share information on what can be used in a classroom, private school, or home school setting as well as serve as a portfolio of my personal and professional work.
The reviews are my opinions and should be treated as such. I just want to provide a tool for teachers to select documentaries for their classrooms.